This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixxby Nikki Sixx
This Is Gonna Hurt is music, photography, and life through the distorted lens of Nikki Sixx, bassist for heavy metal rock band Mötley Crüe’s and the New York Times bestselling author of The Heroin Diaries. A combination of powerful prose and dramatic photographs, This Is Gonna Hurt is an arresting, deeply personal look/b>/b>/b>/b>… See more details below
This Is Gonna Hurt is music, photography, and life through the distorted lens of Nikki Sixx, bassist for heavy metal rock band Mötley Crüe’s and the New York Times bestselling author of The Heroin Diaries. A combination of powerful prose and dramatic photographs, This Is Gonna Hurt is an arresting, deeply personal look through the eyes of a real rock star at a stark, post-addiction world.
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This Is Gonna Hurt
By Nikki Sixx
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2011 Nikki Sixx
All rights reserved.
Why I Invited You Here Look Thru My Cracked Viewfinder
Life's Not Always Beautiful Ghosts Inside Me This Is War
One Man, Two Bands Killer's Instinct Help Is On The Way
Tale Of The Siamese Twins And The Black Rose Tattoo
Rock N Roll Will Be The Death Of Me The End, Unless It's The Beginning
I look through my cracked viewfinder.
This all started innocently enough ...
It was a crisp spring morning in 1989. I was newly sober and looking for something to replace the drugs that had been running through my bloodstream for years, and for some odd reason decided to go into a camera store. It was a simple little Canon 35 mm SLR and a couple of lenses that started an adventure that will probably plague me forever, like music.
(Well, okay, to be honest, it wasn't really the beginning of me shooting pictures: I had been snapping Polaroids of the band and our life on the road for years. But that's a different book.)
I believe my photography addiction somehow ties into the fact that I've always had an eye for the oddities in life. Even as a kid I saw the world in my own way and thought most things that were different were beautiful and magical. Even things that other people thought were horrifying and disgusting and weird.
I'm six or seven years old, walking down a street in L.A. with my mother. We pass by an amputee. I gaze at her, transfixed.
"Don't stare," my mother says.
"Why not?" I say. "She's beautiful."
A couple months ago I'm sitting on a plane next to Tommy Lee. I'm on my laptop, going through some of the photographs I've created. He asks to see. He clicks through a bunch, then stops and stares at one showing an obese woman standing on a pedestal, mouth open wide in a scream, spewing some kind of clear liquid.
"You know, Sixx," he finally says, "you are one of the most seriously fucked-up people I've ever met," and he laughs, and I laugh, too, but I'm thinking, Man, thirty years together and he still doesn't get me. When I see the mainstream marketing imagery of beauty and love, I see a lie. Some people look at a rose and see romance and love. I see thorns and droplets of blood and heartbreak. I see the struggle to survive and connect and find a happy ending.
I remember as a kid looking through old photography books about sideshows and circus performers and wondering why people thought them so odd. Did people think they don't have feelings because they're missing limbs? They can't love because their bodies are misshapen? They can't be beautiful because they don't conform to our stereotype of beauty?
Maybe we're the ones who are ugly.
Whilst walking in downtown Los Angeles one day, a homeless man asked me for a helping hand. I think the fact that he had no hands played to the side of me that finds such irony poetic. I told him I had a few dollars to spare if he had a few moments for me in exchange. We sat together, not much different in our stories, but worlds apart in our realities. At one point he asked me why I was sitting there talking to him. After all, most people just look away at the sight of someone in his shoes, or lack thereof. I told him, as I tell you now, I didn't know why. I do what my heart tells me to do and often I don't understand, but I do know this: that day was one of the last times I was without my camera. The man's image haunts me still. Not in sorrow, but because he, too, is a survivor, and he felt blessed to be alive, even on the hard, cold, streets of downtown L.A. Not capturing that moment was a great lesson in being a photographer.
Life is full of so many false starts and abrupt finishes and unexpected detours. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something new comes along and rips the rug out from under you. I cherish this about my existence. People come up to me and ask, "Nikki, how can you be in one of the world's biggest rock bands, have a side band with a hit album, have a clothing line, be a successful author, have your own radio show, be a father of four, and on top of that still have such cool-ass hair?" I say, "Wait, what about my photography?"
By now, I can't imagine not taking pictures whenever the moment moves me — from the first rays of morning light bouncing off the windowsill to the laughter roaring out of a wild man standing on the corner of the freeway, begging for change. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, and I say they're right. I also say you see what you want to see, so I keep my eyes wide open at all times.
I sometimes feel like a robot, scanning the planet for information. The conversation I have with a fan in an airport, DOWNLOADED into my brain. The kid who runs in front of my car chasing a ball, making me stop on a dime, DOWNLOADED. The woman at the gas station driving a Rolls-Royce and yelling at the attendant that he didn't properly clean her windshield, DOWNLOADED. As an artist, I take it all in knowing it will somehow be regurgitated later, maybe as a lyric, or a chapter in a book, or a photograph.
When I see something, I grab whatever's handy and start clicking — my iPhone, my Holga or Diana toy cameras, my little Canon point-and-shoot, my homemade pinhole wooden camera, or the big Nikon D3, or my new friend, a Gilles-Faller wet-plate camera from 1890. All just different ways to collect what falls beneath my gaze.
I think the photographer who turns up his nose at a low-res cell phone camera has lost what he fell in love with in the first place: capturing that magical moment. Taking a picture is just telling a story. You know, like the blink of an eye, a flash, then it's gone. I know that for me, the magic is in the moment. I live for the mystery of that. I learned this somewhere along the way. I hear it in AA meetings often: one day at a time. I even hear one minute at a time.
I forget this sometimes, and when I do I start to feel out of sync with life. I think photography realigns me with the moment.
I don't have a favorite style of photography. I love the same greats that every fan does, like Joel-Peter Witkin and Diane Arbus. But there are so many others. I recently found a wonderful book when I was in London, titled Le Temple Aux Miroirs by the French photographer Irina Ionesco. She turned the world on its head in the 1970s when she took photos featuring her underage daughter in tantalizing positions, a pre-sexual kitten mixed with bordello queen. Raw and beautiful in the lighting and rich in texture thanks to the darkroom work, it is brilliant. But it is also her own young daughter, nude for all the world to see. It makes me think, as an artist and a parent. One side of my brain is inspired, one side repulsed.
Old cameras capturing odd people with ancient souls, sitting on antique books and furniture, sometimes shot in abandoned places, or sets made to look suitably destroyed and decayed ... everything and everybody here on this polluted blue marble is destined to leave a mark, and this is one of mine. I will leave it to the history books to decide whether it's good or bad. If it's up to the critics, well, put it like this: word on the street is there ain't no Grammy in my future. I ruffled way too many feathers in the old boys' network for that to happen. I hope to follow suit in photography.
Photo sessions for me are like injections of life. I pace back and forth impatiently, like a man with a machine gun, and trust me when I say I have an itchy trigger finger. Once I get the picture, I "get the talent out," as the expression goes, meaning I send the models away. This is the moment when the magic comes to life. It's like capturing a soul. Going through the photos frame by frame, cursing the focus of this one, amazed at the perfection of that one.
Then it's all about the processing of the images, the dodging and burning, and if there is any juice left in your engine (or time on the clock) maybe a print or two to hold in your hands. I almost always take an image home with me at the end of a shoot, like a cannibal takes a head. A trophy, I guess.
My favorite sessions are with the old, decrepit, deranged, and uniquely beautiful. The once living or now on the verge of dying. Maybe we're just stopping time until we graduate to the next level (some call it heaven). No matter how they look, I say they are pretty things. After all, if they can make you feel, they must be special. There is a sensation to something that has been around for a long time, a kind of energy that I get from it. The older we are, the better we become. Just look at Keith Richards. (I am not far behind.)
I search high and low to find people who move me emotionally to photograph. Some come to me through friends of friends, casting directors or other photographers, but it isn't easy. I have tried my hardest to get into places most people run from. Shooting galleries are almost impossible to penetrate, and mental institutions have so much red tape you'd think they were sacred. Whorehouses aren't easy to get into when you're lugging a camera, but I have gotten into a few.
For me, it's love of personal contact that pushes my creativity. That's why I love shooting on the street. Whether it was in Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, or someplace else, finding people who have fallen on the hardest of times, those who seem forgotten, has provided me with my happiest times as a photographer. They need to have their beauty acknowledged by capturing the image.
I always take my cameras with me on tour. Photography takes me away from the normal routine (and boredom) of airport-limo-hotel-venue. Sometimes it takes me far, far away.
In Vancouver, I was talking to the concierge at the hotel where Mötley Crüe was staying. You're supposed to ask the concierge when you're searching for the nearest great restaurant or local hot spot.
Somehow I always feel like an alien because I never want to know about the nightlife (at least not that kind). But I knew that some questions are better whispered than announced to the whole lobby.
I looked down at her name tag and asked the question under my breath — way under my breath, so far under my breath I may have seemed like a crazy person miming. I said, "Julie, I'm trying to find the most drug-infested part of town."
She said, "Of course, sir, I'll get my manager to help you."
The next name tag in front of me belonged to Karl. "May I help you, sir?" he asked. By the way he blurted it out, I could tell Julie hadn't filled him in on my request. I repeated it, at which point Karl took me aside and asked a few questions, mostly to cover the hotel's ass, I think. When you look like I do and ask where the crack houses are, people might assume incorrectly about what you're after. Once I explained, he said he had a few friends who are photographers and so he knew the perfect place, but first I needed to understand how dangerous it was. Imagine my smile when I got what I asked for.
Jumping into a van with a bag of cameras and six hundred Canadian dollars in my pocket was my idea of a perfect day off from the crazy traveling circus. Running up behind me came my 350-pound (and equally bighearted) security guard, Kimo. I told him he had to stay at the hotel because he would scare people away. We had a heated argument, during which the tour manager and then actual managers were called. Finally, to save time, I just caved in. We all agreed that Kimo could come — as long as he stayed far enough away so nobody would notice him, but close enough to save me if necessary. Frustrating sometimes to be thought of as a commodity.
Sucking up my ego and picking up my cameras, I was off to the crack district. It took ten minutes to get there from our five-star hotel, and three hours to get Kimo to allow me to enter the most dangerous alley in Vancouver. It wasn't unlike a million other alleys I've seen except it looked bottomless. I couldn't even tell if it was a dead end or not. Brick buildings lined it, old banks and government offices, now abandoned. This isn't prime real estate unless you're a junkie.
I sat alone at the mouth of that alley for over an hour until one guy came up and asked what I wanted. I told him I wanted to take pictures. I wanted to be a fly on the wall, so to speak. I told him I was an ex-addict and maybe some of these pictures would help other people who were thinking about doing drugs.
His response was simple: "How much?"
Now, being one to bait the hook with the fattest worm, I gave him fifty dollars and he took off to tell the others that I had money and was one of them. Before long I was twenty feet into the alley and a hundred dollars lighter. I saw Kimo pacing back and forth as I handed out cash and disappeared deeper and deeper until finally I was out of his sight altogether. At last.
Excerpted from This Is Gonna Hurt by Nikki Sixx. Copyright © 2011 by Nikki Sixx. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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